Spy magazine had a wonderful column by Ellis Weiner called “How to Be a Grown-up”. (In one column, Weiner pointed out that homeless, applied to beggars, should be houseless.) Gordy Slack, a Bay Area science writer, has written the first book that might be called How to be a Grown-up About Evolution. It is an account of the Dover, PA trial in which parents sued the school board for requiring that intelligent design be mentioned in biology class. The book's actual title is The Battle Over the Meaning of Everything. (I’ve known Gordy for years and he wrote about me for The Scientist.)
Not surprisingly, Gordy sympathizes with the parents (the anti-creationists). But he tries to understand the other side rather than demonize it, which is what is grown-up about his book. One reason for this attitude is that his father is on the other side. His father, at one point a professor of psychology at Harvard, became at age 51 a born-again Christian and a creationist. In 1998, his father took Gordy to meet Philip Johnson, the Berkeley law professor who is the father of intelligent design (ID), a big-tent version of creationism. “Give us five or ten years, and you’ll see scientific breakthroughs biologists hadn’t dreamed of before ID,” Johnson told Gordy.
While writing the book, Gordy happened to interview Joan Roughgarden, a Stanford biology professor (and fellow Scientific Blogging columnist - editors) whose specialty is evolution.
I thought our interview was going well. But when I told her that I was writing a book about ID in order to understand what drove its proponents, her attitude and demeanor swung around 180 degrees. . . .”They want to define me [Roughgarden is a transsexual] as inhuman,” she said.
How dare anyone try to understand the other side! (Roughgarden’s reaction to a psychology talk she didn’t like.) The notion that the solution to intolerance is more intolerance is remarkably popular, which is why The Battle Over the Meaning of Everything really stands out.